SV650 Finished and Photographed

SV650 Build Story

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SV650 Finished and Photographed

After countless evenings, weekends and cases of beer, the SV650 Custom project was finally completed last week.

I’ve wheeled the bike outside countless times before, but this time I had my helmet and leather jacket with me… we were finally going for our first proper ride! My heart was racing with nerves, but taking off up the road, this soon melted away into utter euphoria. Finally I could see that all the hours of work ploughed into this project were worthwhile! This first ride has to be kept relatively short, as I was keen to avoid a roadside conversation with the Polizei until the bike is fully legal in Germany. I wanted to see though what kind of range I had in the tank. I managed 75km of spirited riding before switching to reserve, which probably would have another 10-15km. We’ll call it 90km, shall we. That’s enough for a good blast I reckon.

The riding position is comfortable and not too extreme – your legs are tucked up nicely, and the bars just the right distance away to allow you to really get into the ride. I’m really glad that I put some time into the ergonomics, it feels properly focussed without being uncomfortable. Incidentally, the seat height is relatively low, and a friend who is around 1.5m tall can reach the ground. (That’s even without any further suspension lowering that is easily possible on the SV).

A priority was to go out and take some photos of the bike before anything could go wrong! For this I called on my friend Anna Llewellyn, who is a great amateur photographer, with ambitions to go professional. I think she can make it, having done such a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the bike.

We chose several great locations around Munich for the shoot – Königsplatz, Pinakothek der Moderne, and near the Maximiliansbrücke. Anyway, I’ll let the photos do the talking…

SV650 left side at Maximiliansbrücke

SV650 at Königsplatz

Bodywork detail

SV650 headlight detail

Creator Nick Graveley with the Claymoto SV650

Sv650 tail detail


SV650 tank area detail


SV650 airbox lid and Newton Equipment fuel filler cap detail

Claymoto SV650 shredded rear tyre

Claymoto SV650 shot in front of Museum Brandhorst, Munich

Claymoto SV650 in the park near Maxilmiliansbrücke

I think Anna did a really great job of photographing the bike, and the next task was to try and get it featured in the press. Reading through the submission requirements from some of the online media outlets, I realised that maybe, as great as they are, the photos would not satisfy their stringent requirements to show the bike in fantasticly lit detail. So, feeling like I couldn’t really ask Anna to get up at daybreak for the second time in a week, I struck out alone and revisiting the Pinakothek der Moderne, I captured the following set of photos. I’m still waiting for a feature, but hope it’s only a matter of time! (If you’re a magazine editor reading this… get in touch! )

Claymoto SV650 left side at Pinakothek der Moderne

Custom Suzuki SV650 rear three quarter view

Custom Suzuki SV650 rear three quarter view

Custom Suzuki SV650 rear view

Custom Suzuki SV650 front three quarter view

Custom Suzuki SV650 right side

Custom Suzuki SV650 tail detail

Custom Suzuki SV650 bodywork and tank cap closeup

Custom Suzuki SV650 headlight detail


SV650 Rebuild

With all the parts back from the powder-coaters, it’s time to start putting it all back together again. I’m reassembling using the engine from the original prototype, as the new engine is rather corroded in places, evidently from sitting outside in Scotland for several years. The other engine isn’t perfect but it’s much better (and I know it runs well from the Slovakia Ring test).

Rebuilding the bike was relatively painless, with only the electrical loom needing a bit of rerouting to make sure that there wouldn’t be any chafing on the frame anywhere. I’m pretty please with the way I’ve managed to package all the components that were once inside the original bike’s tail, inside the frame next to the engine. I think I’ve not described this up until now, so briefly…

In front of the airbox sits the fusebox and starter relay, attached by 2.5mm aluminium lazer-cut/folded brackets. On the right side of the engine, between it and the frame sits the Li-ion battery, ECU, reg/rec and tip-over sensor located in a bespoke housing. The housing is also constructed from 2.5mm aluminium lazer-cut and folded to shape. On the left side of the engine, the external fuel pump has now had to be moved away from the rear cylinder, and just squeezes into a gap in front of the coolant expansion tank. The problem I had was that on a hot day, when the bike sits at idle reaching 100ºC, it would boil the fuel in the fuel pump, and so cut the engine. It’s now been moved away from the engine and wrapped in head proofing material, which has solved this issue. It’s interesting that it never happened at the Slovakia Ring test, but I’m gad to have discovered and resolved this gremlin.

Anyway, here’s a timelapse video of the rebuild:



Aluminium fuel tank

It’s still not a definite “no” on getting the SV registered in Germany, however with the fibreglass fuel tank it’s incredibly unlikely. So I used my connections from my time out in India to get an aluminium one made up. So, I modified the pattern to be more simple to make in aluminium, and sent it out to India with a friend heading that way

After a few false starts trying to use steel, a hand beaten aluminium tank finally emerged, and was brought back to Germany by one of my other wonderful friends. (Melanie, Juliane and Kunal thank you for being such willing motorcycle parts mules!)

aluminium fuel tank 4

aluminium fuel tank 5

aluminium fuel tank 3

aluminium fuel tank 2

I pressure tested the tank to 1 bar of pressure, so although the surface isn’t 100% perfect, this aluminium fuel tank is well constructed and fuel tight. It should keep the TÜV man happy, should it ever get to that point…

Aluminium fuel tank pressure testing

Aluminium fuel tank pressure testing using a cut up bicycle inner tube at the fuel inlet, just visible on the right.


Full Strip Down before Rebuild

One thing I wanted for sure on the final bike was a black frame, as opposed to the silver one on the development bike. This of course was going to mean a full strip down and rebuild to achieve this. To this end, I bought another low mileage SV650 with a black frame on ebay for a bargain price. The other thing about this new bike is that it’s UK registered – it’s beginning to seem like registering the SV in Germany is going to be an insurmountable hurdle, due to the amount and nature of the modifications. Having the bike registered in the UK is hardly ideal, but it’s the best workaround I can think of for now.


UK SV650 arrives

It’s getting crowded in my small workshop!

SV650 being stripped

Stripping the UK bike down

Having stripped the UK bike down, I decided that I should cut off the left hand lower subframe mounting, as it’s completely redundant in the new design. This of course meant that I would have to completely strip the black finish and re-powder coat it. Not having access to a sandblasting cabinet, it was time to improvise a solution that would allow me to sandblast in the workshop. The great thing about this s that it’s entirely sealed, so it’s really easy to collect the sand and refill the blaster!

Pop up blasting cabinet

A 40 EUR pop-up tent makes an ideal blasting cabinet!

Safety first

Safety first

Sandblasted SV650 frame

Sandblasted SV650 frame.

So with the frame, swingarm and some other parts off to the powder coating shop it’s time to turn my attention to some of the bodywork parts.

Headlight fairing development

The last big job (or so I thought!) is to get the headlight fairing made. This would involve the usual process of clay modelling, and then taking a mould off, with the exception that this would have to be a double sided part to allow the headlight to be bolted in.

Starting to load clay on

Starting to load clay on


Roughing in the volume

Roughing in the volume

Nick, hard at work!

Nick, hard at work!

Clay model headlight

It’s beginning to look like there’s not going to be a nice way of making the headlight asymmetrical to accommodate the speedo in it’s current location…

Clay model headlight 2

Even if the top part is not yet resolved, it’s time to start resolving some of the lower area, which in turn will help me see the bigger picture to address the top.

Clay model headlight 3

It’s starting to look like something half decent, but I’m struggling with making the fairing as small as possible, whilst still covering the headlight mounting points. That’s the reason for the strange block next to the lower triple clamp.

Clay on measuring machine

Time to get it on the measuring machine to copy the right side over to the left, so I can see how it’s looking as a whole.The slot on the top is to access the mounting bolt.


Copying over clay

Clay headlight copying over

The measuring machine is used to take points off feature lines and surfaces before manually marking them on the other side. The machine can measure to 0.01mm, but sadly there are errors in setup and the method of copying over, but we can easily get within 1mm accuracy, which is plenty for this purpose.

Clay headlight development

With the design doubled over, and mounted on the bike it’s easier to see where to go next with it. Having the speedo moved directly over the top yoke has solved the issue with having to make the top asymmetrical.


Lazer leveling clheadligay ht

In order to get the headlight positioned properly on the center line back in the workshop, lazer beams are necessary.

SV650 clayheadlight almost finished

I found an old screen laying about in the workshop, from my Yamaha XT660R. As luck would have it, the contour of the screen’s top edge fits nicely with the top of the speedo. With a bit of trimming it’s brought into the design.


Clay headlight ready for moulding

Headlight fairing ready for moulding

Clay headlight ready for moulding

Headlight ready for moulding. Note there are some sharp edges on this that will be softened more accurately in the first hard part

Clay and mould

After popping the mould off. Just needs a clean up and then the first part can be made

Headlight mould b-side

The first part has been made from the mould, and trimmed to accept the headlight, with a 1mm clearance all around it. Then mounting lugs have been introduced to make the b-side of the mould.



Fibregalss headlamp part

The surface needs a little work, but generally I’m happy with that. Just need to figure a way to get rid of that pesky KTM logo inside the light!

Cockpit view

It’s just a shame that the European regulations insist the bike must have a steering lock fitted, or else I could have relocated the ignition switch and closed up that massive gap!

Making the bike legal

So in trying to make the bike road legal, I’ve made several modifications since the Slovakia Ring test.

Firstly, the rear number plate carrier, which also carries the mudguard and lights has been added. Secondly, and regretfully, I had to replace the mega Supertrapp exhaust can – If the police ever start asking questions about the road legality of the bike, the exhaust will be their first port of call… So, a new “GP Storm” full stainless steel exhaust system has been fitted. This is the shortest exhaust system I could find that is e-marked for road use. It’s not as good sounding as the Supertrapp, but for an e-marked can it’s not bad at all! It necessitated the addition of an extra mounting bracket, that has fortunately given a raison d’être for the old subframe mounting point on the right hand side of the main frame. The redundant one on the left hand side will be cut off in due course.

I went for a little photo shoot in the English Garden which is right next to the workshop.



SV089 IMG_8382 SV092 SV093

Some shots of the two mounting brackets before powder coating. The last major component that is pending is the surround for the KTM Duke headlight.




Even with these mods, the bike is still going to be a real struggle to register in Germany, because of the TUV requirements. But knowing this, I’ve acquired another ebay bargain in the form of a UK registered SV650. In the UK, the modifications I’ve made are not such a problem. I shall have to do a full tear down and rebuild in the new frame, but this will give me the opportunity to powdercoat the frame so it’s all for the best.


Slovakia Ring test

After the mammoth journey to the Slovakia Ring, which was made even longer by my buddy’s underpowered Dacia towing a big box trailer with 3 bikes in it, we were ready to hit the track. To say I was nervous, is a massive understatement.. my biggest concern was the fuel tank I had made. Partly because it’s the first fuel tank I’d EVER made, and partly because of the paltry 10mm clearance I’d allowed between the rear cylinder head and the tank… What if I ended up turning into a fireball halfway down the straight..?

Still, in the spirit of “he who dares wins” I headed out for a gentle first session. After about 3 laps it became apparent that all was in fact utterly splendid, and with the bike inspiring absolute confidence, I warmed up the pace.

Back in the pits, there was no signs of leakage, or any problems at all with the bike. All it needed was gassing up for the next session. Each session was using most of the bike’s 5(ish) litre capacity. After a proper hard-on-it session, the bike was taking about 4.5 litres of fuel. For some time afterwards I wondered if I should modify everything to increase the fuel capacity, but decided that frankly, it’s way too much hassle. In any case, in the real world this bike isn’t going to be crossing continents. I’ll make do.


slovakiaring sv650

slovakiaring sv650

I love how short this bike looks

Definitely didn't want to drop it due to cold tyres!

Definitely didn’t want to drop it due to cold tyres!

With no fairing it's pretty windy down the straights!

With no fairing it’s pretty windy down the straights!

Knee down

Helipad photo

Before the headlamp fairing was developed, the speedo sat in front of the yoke. The red box is a transponder for lap times.

SV076a SV077

All in all, after 2 days at the track, and not a single problem with the bike we returned home in positive spirits, ready to make it roadworthy.



Finishing the Bodywork

After finishing the fuel tank and putting the bike together it was apparent that there was a significant issue with the running of the bike. It would not rev out cleanly, and would bog down when cracking the throttle. After lots of investigation and learning about fuel injection systems, I realised I needed to introduce a fuel return valve, that would return fuel back to the tank from the fuel rail once 3 bar had been reached. For this I butchered the original SV650 fuel pump and adapted that pressure relief valve for the purpose. I was confident that this would solve the issue… but sadly it didn’t! In the end after much head-scratching, beers, swapping out injectors from my wife’s SV and many other dead ends, I tried a new set of spark plugs, and the problem vanished. Now there’s a lesson in trying the simple things first.

Having got all the main bodywork parts together, and the bike running, it was time to give the bike it’s first road test. Without yet having all the parts done yet for carrying the rear lights and number plate, the only possibility was for an off-street test. For this we took the bike to Slovakia, and two days at the Slovakia Ring circuit.

So, the bodywork was finished and painted in preparation of the big outing to Slovakia…

Assembled bike ready for paint

Assembled bike ready for paint

Sanding filler primer

Sanding filler primer


SV069 SV071


Finished parts drying in the sun

Finished parts drying in the sun

Assembled bike ready for testing

Assembled bike ready for testing

Airbox Design Change

One of the biggest issues I’ve had with the design to date is the airbox cover which was to incorporate a friend’s development TFT display for the speedo. Not only does the housing actually look pretty ugly – for which I only have myself to blame – if I actually managed to get the speedo in there and working, I’ve come to realise it might actually be useful to see the speedo when riding!

It’s a shame as a lot of time and effort went into the airbox cover and getting it to house both the battery and the speedo, but knowing when to change direction is important. Aside from all this I hadn’t yet figured out exactly how I was going to get the TFT speedo to talk to the bike, as there is no CAN Bus interface on the SV650. I’m glad to have sidestepped this potential showstopper. Maybe it’s something for the next project.

Out with the old, and fugly airbox cover.

Out with the old, and fugly airbox cover.

So, the decision was made to redesign the airbox cover and revert back to a more “standard” located speedo.

Roughing in the airbox cover

Roughing in the airbox cover

Exposed portion of the new airbox lid is finished.

Exposed portion of the new airbox lid is finished.

Lower half of airbox lid is finished with the bodywork removed

SV057 Lower half of airbox lid is finished with the bodywork removed

Taking the mould

Taking the mould

Finished airbox cover in situ

SV061 Finished airbox cover in situ

Fuel Tank

Without a doubt one of the biggest challenges of the project has been the fuel tank. From deciding the material to the fuel pump, fuel level sensor, how to make it so it’s strong, there were many a bottle of beer consumed whilst pondering the best route forwards.

On thing that was apparent was that the fuel tank was not going to be very big. In order to maximise fuel volume, I wanted to make the fuel tank fit as closely to the inside of the bodywork as possible. To do this, I employed the bodywork mould which I lined with roughly 8mm of clay to create an offset surface that would represent the fuel tank’s outer surface. With 2 other bulkheads installed into the mould to represent the front and underside of the tank, I calculated roughly the volume, mixed up the appropriate amount of 2-part PU expanding foam and poured it into a hole I drilled in the mould.

Fuel tank in foam

With the back part of the mould removed, the starting point for my fuel tank is revealed.


Having achieved a rough foam volume, this then had to be refined to fit inside the seat frame. I had originally wanted to make the fuel tank double up as the seat frame, to both reduce weight and maximise fuel volume, but after deciding to make the fuel tank in a suitable epoxy resin which is fuel and ethanol proof, a separate steel frame was required. The final arrangement is seen below. The purple cylinder is the bracket holding the external fuel pump, which just fits in the available space. Almost as if it was planned in advance…


Tank filler detail

The fuel filler goes through the airbox and out the back of it, before joining to the tank.

So having taken a mould off my dummy foam tank, the two halves were laid up using the special fuel proof epoxy resin. This being my first attempt at vacuum bagging, I had several issues, including resin not permeating the glass matt fully – I used a technique where the glass matt was spray glued into place dry, and then the resin pushed in through the fibres afterwards. The high viscosity of the resin didn’t help, and I ended up with several dry spots that had to be wet out after demoulding… but hey, it’s a learning process!





Fuel filler neck with a brilliant closing flap robbed from a discarded ford fuel tank


Foam inserted to stop fuel sloshing about.



This is not the end of the fuel tank story… unfortunately to get the bike TUEV approved for use on the road, the tank would have to undergo an exhaustive testing. So ultimately the tank would be replicated in aluminium. More on that later.

Oh, and the fuel volume you ask? A massive 5 litres! Hmm…

Taking moulds

With the clay complete, it’s time for taking moulds, and crack on with making some actual components.

To seal the clay, I sprayed the surface with shellac and then waxed it with mould release wax. This, as it turns out was not sufficient to ensure anything approaching a clean release of the mould! I’ll let the pictures tell the story of the laminating process.

Walls for mould splits.

Walls for mould splits.

Clay, ready to mould

The “bodywork” is to be moulded as a separate part to the airbox cover. The walls are made to create the division between each part of the 4 piece mould.

Gelcoat going on

Just ignore the blood on my overalls…

Laminating done on the first part of the mould, and it’s on with the second part.



20131201_191006 Following the curing of the mould, it was time to remove it from the clay. Which was easier said than done….. Well, actually breaking the mould apart wasn’t a particular problem, just cleaning the clay out of the mould was a pain. In case you ever find yourself in this position, the easiest way is to chip out the worst, and then heat it with the heat gun and wipe it out with a rag. The application of plenty of beer helps too.

Removing the mould

Destroying all your hard clay work is surprisingly cathartic!


Before and after cleaning

Before and after cleaning


After the moulds for the bodywork part were removed and cleaned up, it was time to get a fibreglass bodywork part made…



…and then clean up the airbox cover/speedo housing, and take a mould from that.



The boxy bit at the front by the headstock is actually the location for the LiPo battery.




I won’t dwell too much on the production and development of this airbox cover, since it was ultimately a dead-end that took a lot of time and effort before being ultimately scrapped! However, in brief…

The design never really worked visually, in part because of the LiPo battery location in the front of the airbox, which created this slabby box area at the front. Also it turned out there were major issues with getting the speedo housing into place! These two factors led to a redesign and an improvement by moving the battery to a new location between the frame and the engine. This improved things visually, but something still looked odd with this thing sticking out the top of the bike… For this and several other reasons relating to the display, I decided that this whole area should be simplified, and a more “normal” speedo located further forwards, in a more “normal” location. But that’s a story for another day.



Finishing the clay

Design almost finalised

With the design almost finalised, it’s time to copy it accross to the right hand side

Having gotten the design to a place I was mostly happy, it was time for finishing the clay and to copy the design over to the right hand side. It would undoubtedly need some tweaking, but once you can see both sides it’s far easier to make a good judgement.

Copying over symmetrically can be a bitch of a job unless you have access to a surface plate with measuring machines… which thankfully I did – I managed to convince my clay modelling agent to let me use a plate they have in their facility that goes unused most of the time. So, one saturday morning, I loaded the bike into a van to take it over to their studio.

Mirroring design over using measuring machines

Mirroring design over using measuring machines

SV020 In the space of one day I managed to get all the key lines and some surface points plotted over to the other side, and so it was back to the workshop to clean it up and finish everything.


SV022In the end, for the fuel filler, I opted to make it part of the airbox cover, and to actually route it through the airbox. This would ensure that the filler cap has a fixed position, so panel gaps are not a big worry.

SV024So with the clay finished, it’s time to start thinking about taking some moulds off the clay. For this the front suspension was removed to improve access. The clay isn’t perfect at this stage – there are several things that will need finishing in the first prototype part – for instance the seat frame is protruding through the clay on both sides, which will need to be fixed. Many of the smaller radiuses are also left sharp, as these can be easily and accurately added in the hard part.SV025





IMG_8548This last photo shows how I made the area around the radiator cap asymmetrical for clearance.

In the next post I’ll be starting the process of taking a mould from the clay!


Clay development

The nice thing about clay is it lets you try out all sorts of new ideas quite quickly. Often whilst roughing in one idea, I’ll see a scratch in the clay or a the shape of a random chamfer that sparks another idea. You just don’t get this in 2D sketching since it happens as a result of the modelling process, rather than absolute cognitive design input. Lots of these leads turn out to be absolute crap, but sometimes you strike gold… find enough of these that hang well together and you might have a decent design by the end!

Clay development 1

So many ideas here, all fighting. Urgent need for simplification and refinement!

I took a decision on the seat pad and have opted for a vinyl trimmed gel seat pad. I know it’s got to be thin, but I want it to be as comfortable as possible! I’ve found a supplier in India that makes the kind of orthopedic gel that are used in the medical industry for technical cushions in wheelchairs for example. I’ll get my friend to bring it over when she comes to Germany on business, but for now a rough foam/tape mock-up will do to figure out the shape.

Clay development 2

Clay development 3The body continues to evolve, but I’m struggling to figure out how to integrate the TFT display successfully. Everything I try looks kind of strange, so that needs more thought. The biggest step forwards however came when I eventually took the decision to expose the radiator again. I had been trying very hard to keep the radiator covered, but in the end because of the physical width of the radiator, it was making the bodywork have to be very wide at the bottom there. Looking at the bike in plan view, having the bodywork opening to its widest point at the front was never going to look good. On the way to this decision I tried several things which resulted in design features that I carried forwards, including the blue taped outline below.Clay development 4

Clay development 5

Clay development 6

Finally with the radiator exposed, it all starts to make more sense. The SV650 aficionados among you will have spotted the radiator cap is on the wrong side. On the SV650 it’s on the right hand side, however since I’m ultimately going to be making the bodywork largely symmetrical, I have to consider the design as if it were on the other side, and allow for clearance to the radiator cap.

In other news, I’ve decided that for reasons of practicality, the TFT display should be left in place when the bodywork is removed. In order to achieve this, the central portion of the bodywork that sits over the airbox will be a separate part and become the airbox lid, bolting directly to the original airbox lower. The proposed perimeter of the bodywork, where it meets the airbox lid is mapped out in black tape below. I don’t think I mentioned that in clay modeling we use paper tapes during the development to define where edges should go. By laying tapes on a surface, you can easily create a theoretical edge that you can model to, and know that when the tape is removed the edge you are left with is going to run smoothly, and look good from all angles.

Clay development 7

The airbox lid is starting to come together a bit better now after I’ve decided it will be a completely separate element from the rest of the bodywork.

Clay development 8Lots of aspects are stating to be refined now, and the addition of some fillets start to make the design look less segmented. In clay modelling it’s good practice to work with hard edges first, putting in fillets and radiuses later. Doing so means that you know the surfaces that you have created are actually good controlled surfaces which will result in good reflections and highlights.

I’ve identified the fuel cap I want to use also and have started to think about the practicalities of how this is going to work in terms of its location. If I put it as in the image below at the intersection between the airbox lid and the bodywork, the bodywork can be removed without disconnecting the fuel system, however I have concerns about controlling the panel gaps around the filler cap…

At the tail end, it was looking a little visually heavy at the back there, so I have split it into two wings just to see how it works. Definitely a feature that works for me.

Clay development 9

Time to start roughing in the design

In the last post, I’d just started to load up clay, which using the tiny oven I have (you can see it in the top left of the image below) took quite a while! Now it’s time to start roughing in the design I had sketched out previously.

Starting to rough in the design

Starting to rough in the design

I took inspiration from cafe racers when defining an important aspect of the design – this is the line that runs under the tank and into the seat platform. I also wanted to adopt the essence of a cafe racer in that all superfluous weight should be shed. The very short seat is also key in getting rid of this excess weight. After all, what’s the point in having a load of stuff sticking out behind you if it’s a single-seater. (NB, I’m a hardcore mountain biker too, so having a rooster tail of shit splattered up my back is… erm… OK I guess.)

Ergonomics mule

Euphoria results from sitting on this motorcycle. Fact.

I had my local military aerodynamics expert pop round for a look and a sit on the bike. Aerodynamics is not a really important aspect for this bike, however having good mates pop into the workshop for a beer once in a while certainly is! It’s good to see how the bike’s proportions work when it’s being sat on too. I think the short tail also will really help the bike look good when being ridden.

Starting to find the form

3 weeks after first loading clay, and I’m starting to find the design.

It’s been about 3 weeks of grabbing sporadic hours in the workshop after work. At this stage I’ve decided on the general proportions of the bike, but I’m really trying out lots of ideas about how it all works together. The seat is starting to come together, looking like it’s cradling the rider’s ass, which I think works. The large boxy console behind the top yoke is intended to house a 7″ TFT display that my friend Felix over at 2-Moto is currently developing. Aside from looking amazing as a dashboard, this unit incorporates GPS, accelerometers, CAN/BUS input and black magic to record telemetry data from the bike and the ride, which can be wirelessly downloaded onto your phone’s app. Sound’s exciting! Rather than position the dash unit in front of the top yoke, as is traditional, I want to enclose it in the bodywork, and this should help keep the headlight/front fairing short. At the moment it’s looking rather boxy, and my hopes of making it look like a raised air intake are not really working…. yet.


Preparing the buck and starting clay work

Before starting to put clay on the bike, the “buck” has to be prepared, so the clay will have a secure, flex-free base to sit on. If you don’t have this, then it’s highly likely you’ll end up with cracks in the clay as the clay is quite susceptible to temperature changes. You also want to be able to sit directly on the model to check that the riding position is what you want, and that you don’t have bits of bodywork or whatever sticking out where they’ll bother you when riding.framee drawing - Sheet1

To do this, I used my ergonomics research that I’d done before using the Triumph Daytona 675 overlaid onto the frame of my SV650. With this I was able to come up with a reasonably good idea of the layout of the subframe that I needed to make, and then turned to Solidworks where I knocked up this drawing for a frame. Given that this was my first time using Solidworks, I think it turned out pretty well!

I then took this drawing around several fabrication shops in Munich, and came away with some astronomically priced quotes! It’s at this point I decided it was high time that I learn how to weld! A bit of local ebay sourcing, and I had myself a cheap MIG welder, for far less than the cost I was quoted for the fabrication.

SV650 buck frame

Fitting the seat subframe to the stock SV frame.

In the end I was quite glad I undertook the fabrication myself. Not only was it far cheaper, I got to dip my toe into the murky world of metal work. Furthermore I was able to make a few design alterations, like adding a triangulation to brace it for when I sat on the model.

At this point I also uprated the suspension at both ends. On my wife’s bike I had drastically improved the fork performance by installing cartridge fork emulators, but for my own bike I wanted to go one better. After extensive research, I sourced a complete 2007 GSXR750 front end and a Kawasaki ZX10 rear shock. Doing this of course also gave me awesome Tokico radial brakes!

I was finding whilst sketching that by retaining the stock airbox lid, I was never going to achieve the look I wanted. I did some very unscientific testing on my wife’s SV with the airbox lid removed, and concluded that it could be removed without a major performance difference, but with the plus of a much more impressive intake roar!

The exhaust system was also removed, since there was no way I was ever going to be able to use the stock pipe – way too quiet, long, big, heavy etc etc!

SV650 clay model buck

The buck ready to receive clay

Following completion of the rear frame (note, this is only the frame for the model, and not for the actual end bike), and taping up all the loom and other places we don’t want clay to end up, it was time to load on the clay.

I’m not sure how much you, my dear reader, know about clay modelling, so I’m going to write a little bit here to outline the process.

Modelling clay comes in several guises, however by far the most popular across Europe’s OEM studios are Staedtler Light Clay and Staedtler Medium Clay. Light clay is physically lighter that medium , so should be theoretically better suited to doing a motorcycle since it makes the model easier to move around. However, that said, I far prefer medium clay. It’s personal choice of course, but I find it’s got a much nicer texture, and is far better at adhering to clay that is already on the model. Light clay seems to stick to everything except for itself! Incidentally, if you ever want to tell the difference between one lump of clay and another, light clay floats on water, medium clay sinks.

Modelling clay behaves rather more like a wax than it does “traditional” clay out of the ground. If you heat it up, it softens, and as it cools it hardens. It can be repeatedly heated and cooled indefinitely without affecting the clay in any way. The temperature at which the clay becomes sufficiently soft to smear on top of other clay is roughly 60°C. The base clay also needs to be heated to this temperature by using a hot-air gun, to ensure good adhesion between the layers of clay. Below you can see the clay being built up gradually. I’m a great fan of salvaging waste, so fortunately I have several boxes of Medium clay that I salvaged from the floor of the CNC mill, following the milling of a Rolls Royce – Hopefully it should keep me going for a while!

After the clay is loaded up, it’s time to start going at it with clay tools. These are relatively rudimentary hand tools, that largely consist of rasps (regular flat and curved rasps from the hardware shop), rakes (contoured blades with a handle, resembling a miniature garden rake) and slicks (shaped spring steel of varying thicknesses, normally 0.1mm-1mm). There are several other tools that a modeller uses from time to time, but I’d say 95% of the work can be done using these aforementioned tools.

In the next post I’ll start shaping the clay…

SV650 clay model start

The frame is loaded with modelling clay heated to 60°C